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Is your child ready for kindergarten?

Kindergarten registration is starting across the Triangle? Aren't sure if your little one is ready for big-kid school? Check these tips.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

All February, we've been focusing a bit on kindergarten registration, which started this month in Wake County and will start next week in Durham.

Are you wondering if your child is ready? Cynthia Edwards, a professor of psychology and associate vice president for academic programs at Meredith College, has some of the answers.

Edwards is a developmental psychologist and mother of two. She shared with me these tips to figure out if your child is physically and emotionally mature enough to handle school.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does he separate comfortably from mom and dad?
  • Can he sit reasonably still for 15 minutes? (Edwards notes that this is a neurological maturity question, not one of good behavior).
  • Does he follow two-step instructions, such as, pick up your books and then put them on the bookshelf in the other room?
  • Does he have the skills to seek assistance appropriately from an adult without needing constant attention, but asking for help when he really needs it?
  • Can he delay gratification for a reasonable period of time? (Example, you cannot eat the cookies now, but we will have a snack as soon as we get home from the grocery store).
  • Does he play well with peers?
  • Can he take care of his own basic bodily needs (button and zip; toilet on his own; ask for help appropriately)?

Edwards says not to worry too much about academic skills. A child who uses six-word sentences, can count to 10, knows his basic colors and shapes, and can identify a few letters by name is ready for the kindergarten classroom. If you want to work on building academic skills, incorporate them into routines. Read frequently, she says. Cook together and relate it to numbers and math. And work on basic personal information such as addresses, phone numbers and other basics about your city and neighborhood.

Edwards encourages a visit with your child to the kindergarten classroom if it's allowed. If not, ask if you can observe. Get a feel for what kind of school it is. Some might focus more on "developmental" areas while others focus more on academics, she said.

And, in the end, trust yourself, Edwards said. You know your child better than anyone and are ultimately the best judge.


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